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April 11th, 2016
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Rufous-capped Warbler, Black-capped Gnatcatcher, Greater Pewee

A splendid day of classic spring birding in the Santa Rita Mountains, with an excellent 91 species. Florida Canyon was just sensational!

Green Valley:

A brief walk in the neighborhood south of Continental Rd produced ANNA’S HUMMINGBIRD, BLACK-TAILED GNATCATCHER, LUCY’S WARBLER, BREWER’S SPARROW, PYRRHULOXIA, and HOODED ORIOLE. A NEOTROPIC CORMORANT was an odd sight, flying over the saguaros.

Black-tailed Gnatcatcher

Brewer's Sparrow

Rufous-winged Sparrow

Florida Canyon:

Florida Canyon

We stopped along the entrance road to find a few more of the expected mesquite desert species, such as BELL’S VIREO, BLACK-THROATED and RUFOUS-WINGED SPARROWS, and CANYON TOWHEE. I was more surprised to find a pair of CHIHUAHUAN RAVENS here, not a regular site for this species at this time of year.

Chihuahuan Raven

Chihuahuan Raven

Bell's Vireo

Black-throated Sparrow

Black-throated Sparrow

We eventually located a singing RUFOUS-CAPPED WARBLER in the usual breeding area above the oak grove, a half mile above the parking area (it seems like a lot further when you hike the steep, rocky trail, but I’ve measured it more than once and it’s definitely only a half mile). I’m fairly sure a second bird was present, which is to be expected, with no doubt more pairs further up canyon beyond the end of the rough trail.

Rufous-capped Warbler

Florida Canyon

Florida Canyon

We didn’t see the BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS around the nest I found a few days ago that is close to the trail. The nest is now fully built, but the birds’ absence was a mystery. Maybe they have given up, as this location would be busy with enthusiastic birders and unwitting hikers. Alternatively, they might be just in the period between completing the nest and the first egg being laid, and could be back in the next day or two. We shall see.

Either way, we later watched a pair of BLACK-CAPPED GNATCATCHERS nearby, fairly distantly and much further from the trail, and they too appeared to be collecting nesting material (probably spider web) from a rocky cliff and repeatedly heading into a mesquite tree at the base of the slope. It could be the same pair rebuilding, or another pair. There were two pairs fighting it out in this same area a couple of weeks ago, so either explanation could be viable.

Today was definitely GREATER PEWEE day. While they only breed in high elevation pines, they tend to sing and call excitedly lower down when they first arrive in spring. We saw and heard at least five in the canyon.

Greater Pewee

Greater Pewee

Greater Pewee

The GRAY HAWKS have reached the point in the breeding season that they aggressively dive-bombed a pair of passing RED-TAILED HAWKS, which was fun to watch.

Gray Hawk

‘AUDUBON’S’ YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER was one of the commonest birds of the day, with dozens throughout the canyon. We also found one ‘MYRTLE’ YELLOW-RUMPED WARBLER just above the dam.

We also noted calling MONTEZUMA QUAIL, SHARP-SHINNED HAWK, two or three ‘singing’ GREATER ROADRUNNERS, WHITE-THROATED SWIFT, COSTA’S and RUFOUS HUMMINGBIRDS, NORTHERN BEARDLESS-TYRANNULET, HAMMOND’S and PACIFIC-SLOPE FLYCATCHERS, CASSIN’S KINGBIRD, BELL’S, PLUMBEOUS, HUTTON’S and my first WARBLING VIREO of the year, BLUE-GRAY GNATCATCHER (for the full gnatcatcher set), HERMIT THRUSH, ORANGE-CROWNED, BLACK-THROATED GRAY, TOWNSEND’S, HERMIT and WILSON’S WARBLERS, PAINTED REDSTART, GREEN-TAILED TOWHEE, RUFOUS-CROWNED SPARROW, an out-of-place ABERT’S TOWHEE, LINCOLN’S SPARROW, SUMMER TANAGER, and SCOTT’S ORIOLE.

Hammond's Flycatcher

Hermit Warbler

Ladder-backed Woodpecker

Red-spotted Admiral

Tiny Checkerspot

We saw a SONORAN WHIPSNAKE briefly, and had fun listening to CANYON TREEFROGS bleating like goats. We eventually tracked down the source of the sound – they were inside the big green water tank below the dam! I wonder if the people who drink the water in the research station know they’re in there…

Madera Canyon Rd:

A BOTTERI’S SPARROW was fairly easily found at mile 9.

Madera Canyon:

Santa Rita Lodge was quietening down in the late afternoon, but still had WILD TURKEY, MAGNIFICENT, BLACK-CHINNED and BROAD-BILLED HUMMINGBIRDS, DUSKY-CAPPED FLYCATCHER, and YELLOW-EYED JUNCO. The Turkey Vutlures were circling, and heading into their roost in the huge Arizona Sycamores behind the lodge.

Wild Turkey

Turkey Vulture

 

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